As many of you may recall, just a few weeks ago I was fortunate to take a trip to Africa to spend more time with the girls, deepen relationships, meet some new aunties, and even spend time seeing new clubs. Needless to say, the trip was absolutely incredible inside and out! In this months blog post I am going to tell ya’ll all about my trip and share some new photos, too! Let's dive right in.
First Day With the Girls
After 48 hours of travel and a very special 36 hours of safari with my dad, I finally got off of a small 10 seater plane at Victoria Falls Airport and stepped into the almost 100 degree heat. We met Smokey (the program leader for GSGC who is “on the ground” in VF) and Priscilla (the GSGC founder and inspiration for the clubs) at our hotel. That afternoon, Priscilla and I went to the “Girls Time” club meeting. After arriving at the school where the club meets, I was greeted with several hugs and welcoming smiles by all of the girls - especially from friends I originally met in 2017. In this club meeting, I passed out 25 pen-pal letters from girls here in the United States. All of the Girls Time club girls were thrilled to receive them and could not wait to see what their new pen-pals had to say. Some of the girls were so excited that they actually wrote letters back and hand delivered them to me the next day! Priscilla asked the girls to raise their hands if they had ever given a letter to someone. 1 of 30 girls raised her hand. Then she asked who had ever received a letter. No hands went up. It was so exciting to see how happy they all were to have gotten their first letter! And I’m even more excited to think about these new pen-pal relationships hopefully turning into long term friendships.
Visiting Livingstone, Zambia For the First Time
Today we went to Livingstone, Zambia which is only about a 20-minute drive over a bridge just below the actual Victoria Falls. After going across the border and getting passports stamped, we met 2 very special aunties, Gloria and Rachel, whom I had never met before. They took us to a nearby market to get a feel for local culture and we also drove through some very poor neighborhoods that were extremely eye-opening to see. At one point we went to a rock quarry where mothers and grandmothers work all day breaking big stones into piles of pebbles - just hoping someone may come along and maybe pay them $1 for a full days of work. Life is very hard for many women in this part of the world even though most of us would probably imagine that anything near Victoria Falls is a paradise. Not the case at all!
After that we met another amazing auntie named Agnes. She and her husband are both talented artists and her club is actually in a very cool art studio at their home. It was very interesting to see how she uses art to inspire and empower her girls. Next, we went to visit a club that has its own space inside a school. These club girls go to a school that is very difficult to get into and they all seemed quite educated. In the club meeting that day, they discussed what the club and aunties mean to them, as well as some of the situations they live with on a daily basis. Not all are as poor as the girls in other clubs, but all face difficult situations because girls are not valued and supported the same as boys in their society.
That evening, back in Vic Falls, we shared dinner with four girls from the “Girls Time” club at a nicer restaurant on the banks of the Zambezi river. It was great spending more individualized time developing relationships plus most of them had never had this type of experience. That is actually part of empowering the girls - showing them that they belong anywhere. It is also special to see how these particular girls have grown in confidence and become so focused on a brighter future in just over a year and a half since our last visit! After a long, but unbelievable day, my dad and I headed back to get a full sleep. Days with the aunties and girls are so fulfilling but also physically and emotionally exhausting!
A Day in the Rural Village
Today we headed out to see girls in a rural village. Last year we spent time with auntie Sfe and met some of her girls at a different location. Rural girls tend to be more shy and their English language skills are less developed. I brought along an activity for us to do together as a way to bond and also do something fun and empowering. I’m going to share more about what we did in a future blog post! Some of the girls also recited poetry and others did free-form drawings. It may not seem like a big deal to us, but standing in front of a group and performing is a really big confidence booster. You can literally see the girls standing taller and looking stronger. After the club meeting, I even got to try my hand at pumping water from the community well!
That evening we were fortunate to share another small group meal in the backyard at Smokey and his wonderful wife Yolanda’s house. Yolanda cooked a traditional meal of beef stew, kale and soudza (like polenta) that we all ate with our fingers. Also, as a new experience and special treat for the girls, I taught them how to make brownies from a mix I brought from the US. They had never baked before or tasted brownies so it was super cool to show them something that I loved to do. Dinner was delicious and the night ended with an impromptu dance party listening to some music I enjoy! Sadly, I learned after the girls left to go home that one of the them (who looked as happy and healthy as the others) hadn’t eaten meat in a very long time because her father spends all his money on a girlfriend rather than feeding his daughter. This is just one of the many examples of challenges these girls face in their lives.
So Hard to Leave
Before saying our goodbyes, we got a very special treat when we visited the first ever GSGC safe space that has just been obtained. It still needs a lot of work which will happen over the coming months. But thanks to the incredible generosity of Seraphine Project supporters who donated all the funds, this dream is finally coming together. I could not be more excited for what is ahead with the space and can’t wait for the girls and aunties to have a private space all to themselves!! After that last highlight, sadly my dad and I had to leave. Our hearts were so full from the experience and we had the best father-daughter trip together. Still there is so much work to be done and girls to support and empower. I already can’t wait to go back!!
As many of you all know, last year I was mostly fundraising for a safe space. This year I have decided that my efforts are going to go toward funding the clubs including expanding their resources and even helping alumni. After being with the girls and developing more relationships, I feel a stronger connection than ever to the work that is being done with the clubs. I would like to ask you all to consider donating to support these incredible girls. They deserve so much and the clubs provide them with such incredible opportunities unlike anything else. By donating, you are giving the girls the opportunity to grow into amazing women who can realize their full potential. I cannot express my gratitude enough for all of the support from each of you!!
Another way you can help is to please also follow me on social media and invite others to do the same. I will be sharing even more in the future via blogs and @theseraphineproject on Instagram.